In accordance with the President’s proclamation, Governor Chris Sununu has
directed flags on all public buildings and grounds in the State of New
Hampshire to fly at half-staff following the death of Robert Joseph Dole,
effective immediately and until sunset on December 9, 2021.
World War II and recovery
In 1942, Dole joined the United States Army’s Enlisted Reserve Corps to fight in World War II, becoming a second lieutenant in the Army’s 10th Mountain Division. In April 1945, while engaged in combat near Castel d’Aiano in the Apennine mountains southwest of Bologna, Italy, Dole was seriously wounded by a German shell that struck his upper back and right arm, shattering his collarbone and part of his spine. “I lay face down in the dirt,” Dole said. “I could not see or move my arms. I thought they were missing.” As Lee Sandlin describes, when fellow soldiers saw the extent of his injuries, they believed all they could do was “give him the largest dose of morphine they dared and write an ‘M’ for ‘morphine’ on his forehead in his own blood, so that nobody else who found him would give him a second, fatal dose.”
Dole was paralyzed from the neck down and transported to a military hospital near Kansas, expected to die. Suffering blood clots, a life-threatening infection, and a fever of almost 109 degrees; after large doses of penicillin were not successful, he overcame the infection with the administration of streptomycin, which at the time was still an experimental drug. He remained despondent, “not ready to accept the fact that my life would be changed forever”. He was encouraged to see Hampar Kelikian, an orthopedist in Chicago who had been working with veterans returning from war. Although during their first meeting Kelikian told Dole that he would never be able to recover fully, the encounter changed Dole’s outlook on life, who years later wrote of Kelikian, a survivor of the Armenian genocide, “Kelikian inspired me to focus on what I had left and what I could do with it, rather than complaining what had been lost.” Dr. K, as Dole later came to affectionately call him, operated on him seven times, free of charge, and had, in Dole’s words, “an impact on my life second only to my family”.
Dole recovered from his wounds at the Percy Jones Army Hospital. This complex of federal buildings, no longer a hospital, is now named Hart-Dole-Inouye Federal Center in honor of three patients who became United States Senators: Dole, Philip Hart, and Daniel Inouye. Dole was decorated three times, receiving two Purple Hearts for his injuries, and the Bronze Star with “V” Device for valor for his attempt to assist a downed radioman. The injuries left him with limited mobility in his right arm and numbness in his left arm. He minimized the effect in public by keeping a pen in his right hand, and learned to write with his left hand. In 1947, he was medically discharged from the Army as a captain.